And so it begins.

As expected, doing the OCD presentation a couple of weeks ago brought up all kinds of feelings and I entered last week just feeling anxious.

Every day, anxious about something and it was the urgent kind of anxiety. If we don’t do the washing now the world will go to shit kind of anxiety. It also messed with my sleep, I’m used to not being very good at sleep but it’s fair to say I’ve not handled it properly. Like my OCD symptoms, I’ve bumbled through them, crying through the bad days hoping to hell it’s only short.

I usually manage my sleep, if I need to get up early with herbal sleeping tablets and if I can get away with it, a large gin. Now usually it’s not enough gin that I’m passing out drunk, it’s more of a extra large measure enough to take the edge off and allow some calm in my mind. I’m almost certain it acts as a placebo as I can usually sleep about 10 minutes after the gin sans juice meaning it’s unlikely to have actually done anything at all but I feel better for it.

That is until the morning, when I wake utterly despondent I’m unable to sleep normally like the snoring Gary next to me. Why can’t I sleep like everyone else? Why do I have to be different? Ordinarily, that night I won’t have to wake early the next day and I go back to normal, however not this time. Not because I had to be up early, but because I’m ready to tackle this.

I resolved, contacted OCD Action for support, contacted a therapist and started reading a CBT book and actually started doing a bit of CBT each day.

We’ve ran into a problem mind, therapy, they don’t exactly fit the schedule. I work Monday to Friday normally 9-5 depending on where I’m travelling to and so do therapists. I found one that works Tuesday night, exactly the time I have running club which helps body and mind for me so I’m in a bind. They also cost a fricking fortune, I want to go private as I’ve not had great experiences with the NHS near me and the current wait time is about 6 months. But they’re charging on average £80 an hour! £80! Now I get it, I should look at this as a long term investment, small injection of cash now and long term health, forever. But seriously, no wonder we have a mental health problem in this country, most people don’t have that kind of money, £320 a month! That’s nearly half my mortgage. It hurt that private treatment is restricted to the wealthy. The problem is that they’re in short supply, there was a list of perhaps 2 or 3 CBT therapists within a half hour drive of my house. If I lived in central Cambridge the number ups to 10-12. That’s not many really, in Ely there are about 25,000 people meaning about 6,000 people will have some form of mental health problem annually and 3 private therapists and I looked, no NHS therapists. Disgraceful. I’m now looking into ‘virtual’ therapy, see if that helps. If those with mental health problems find the strength to seek help, there bloody well should be help available.

I’m always happy to chat and you can drop me a message on the ‘Contact’ tab, however I’m not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Guilty pleasures

Few things in an OCD life are without spoils. Everything gets overthought, analysed and considered. Lunch with friends, am I talking to much? Focussing too much on me? Did I say the wrong thing? Running with my club, they all think you’re fat and slow. As I indulge over the weekend, disgusting, fat and unattractive. As I sit enjoying a coffee with my family, they’re only here because they have to be, they don’t like you.

But one thing remains untouched. Now I may be jynxing this, but somethings I just enjoy, pure, unadulterated enjoyment. One of these things is my all time favourite movies. I don’t watch a whole load of movies, my attention span isn’t that long, I don’t like watching violence or gore, not only does it trigger me, it’s just gross. I do love soppy movies, those that are ridiculously predictable and make you fantasize for that kind of true love, the kind of arguing and making up in the rain with grand gestures, not arguing over the dishwasher and falling asleep on the sofa but I guess that’s reality.

I have two favourite films, they’ve been my faves since I was a child and I have memories of singing the songs and practising the dances. The first is ‘The Sound of Music’, I bloody love it and know all of the songs by heart. My ultimate favourite is ‘Dirty Dancing’, I’ve probably seen it over a thousand times, can recite the entire film and piss off Gary as I say the lines before they arrive and swoon over Patrick Swazey. As I’ve grown, you notice a lot more that goes over your head as a child and your perspective does change as Baby is ultimately a child messing in very adult topics but I remain unfaltered, my favourite film.

It’s also entirely unspoilt, it makes me feel better, a kind of therapy for my soul. Taking me back to being a child when times were simpler and I’d sit on the floor then order my younger sister to be my dance partner.

Mental illness is cruel, it takes so much of your life, I can’t even eat my favourite sweets or have a gin and tonic without feeling guilty, so if you find something that keeps you sane. Keeps you at your core, then grab it with both hands and hold it tight.

I’m always happy to chat, so feel free to reach out via the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Podcasts

Again with my radio silence, I’ve been enjoying a work and blog free week, one more week off work then it’s back to the grind!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m running, commuting and pottering around. I listen to a variety, ‘Guys We Fucked’ which is about female sexual confidence or anti-slut shaming. It’s two unapologetic American comedians chatting to a variety of people, be it men they’ve slept with, those on the LGBTQ spectrum, other comedians or someone else and it’s a dose of reality mixed with comedy. Other podcasts include ‘Mad World’ by Bryony Gordon which is a mental health podcast and more recently ‘GriefCast’ by Cariad Lloyd to discuss grief.

Podcasts are great, they’re essentially putting you as a fly on a wall of an intimate conversation between a couple of people. I’ve laughed, cried, learnt, been shook, disgusted and awestruck. The most important thing being, it’s all real, it’s not a piece of fiction. These are real people, having real conversations and I love it. I get lost in them.

I get lost in books, but they’re to escape the real world, I can get lost in music, but the rhythm moves the body and soul. Podcasts have a way of moving my very being.

So the point, other than to turn everyone on to podcasts, is that I’m on one! My half-sisters cousin (tangible!) Is starting a podcast for people to discuss what they’re passionate about and for episode one, he picked me! I’m passionate about, shock, OCD. It’s alot of who I am and I know alot about it over my many years of having it so yea, I can talk about it for a while. It was also, cheekily, great exposure for me. I don’t usually talk, physically, about my OCD, I like to hide behind a screen but there I was in front of a person laying it all bare for the lovely public to listen to. I haven’t listened to the episode and I don’t think I will as I hate the sound of my own voice but I’m glad I did it.

Arrogantly, I felt important to be picked, happy that the work I’m putting in to removing the stigma around OCD is being recognised and hopefully beginning to make a difference. It was a great experience, being sat in a garage surrounded by gym equipment with two microphones and a laptop! Would highly recommend it if you get the chance, otherwise take a listen to some podcasts, they’re definitely worth it.

Feel free to reach out via the ‘Contact’ tab however, I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see some of the links available on the ‘Support’ tab.

The good in the world

So often we look around and everything you see is bad. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, violence, hate and crime.

It seems like the world is spiralling towards our own apocalypse where we destroy ourselves but this week out of a shitty incident, I’m reminded there is good in the world.

There seems to be a flurry of stories on Facebook at the moment with animal cruelty. I just don’t understand, I’ve always been an animal lover and I can see myself soon becoming a vegetarian as I reconcile the meat with the animal more as an adult and as a kitten mother. Pictures flood Facebook of tiny, defenceless kittens and puppies used as bait for fights, starved and beaten animals at the hands of someone I can’t describe as human. The desire and the buzz from hurting something weaker astounds me.

The reason for my post is that with an OCD brain I’m incredibly pessimistic and I look for the bad in the world so that when the light comes along, I’m blinded. When a good deed, even if it’s comes from something bad, makes me feel positive.

The story, out with my running club last night on a rural route, we spot 4 men hare coursing in a field, which is catching and harming hares with a starved dog. The men then set fire to the presumably stolen vehicle they used to get into this field and in the process start a couple of fires in the field of the unknown farmer.

We could have done nothing, criminals tend to have a nothing to lose attitude and react with violence. We could have gone on our merry way. Instead, we alerted the police, the fire brigade, the farmer and blocked the main exits to the field ensuring the men were diverted across the boggy field delaying their exit.

Now, it’s no heroism, we didn’t save lives or achieve anything great but we showed the criminals that good stands in their way. We wordlessly stood together to achieve the right thing, the right outcome.

I doubt we’ve moved them away from the path they’ve chosen but at least disrupted them.

It was heartwarming to see that there are good people in the world and a fair few of us. We get all consumed in the bad, the negative and the wrong, yet I remind you, there is good. There are people who will stand for the right thing, stand for the good in the world.

If you’d like to chat, feel free to reach out on the ‘Contact’ page, however I am not a mental health professional, if you would like this support, please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Exposure

Treatment of OCD is usually a combination of medication and CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. Part of CBT often includes some form of exposure therapy which when you first hear it is terrifying.

When the therapist I was seeing at the time described it, I was confused and shocked to say the least, it was described to me as testing your anxiety. I took that to mean, if I’m scared I was a paedophile, I had to try it out and see if I liked it.

I told the therapist this, she laughed and quickly corrected me. It is however, testing the compulsions or avoidance behaviours to see what would happen, so if you currently avoid something, you need to do it. If you have certain compulsions, stop them.

It’s obviously not that easy and can be very distressing but it often shows that the fears the compulsions are based are not true and OCD slowly loses it’s grip as you are no longer doing the compulsions that keep it going.

I had my own chance at exposure yesterday. I’m shy, awkward and steer clear of social interaction with people I’m not comfortable with and if I do go, you will find me drinking as this lessens my anxiety and allows me to relax. Previously, I’ve put myself in a situation where I can drink, i.e. do not need to drive and have somewhere to stay but since moving this can’t always be the case. Yesterday, I was driving, we were going to Gary’s friends and he drove last time so it was my turn and I was dreading it. They’re all lovely people, we’ve known each other a few years but I still worry, get anxious and usually drink through it. Yesterday I couldn’t. So I had to suck it up, I was crabby and snappy and nervous. I was thinking of faking an illness, an argument or something to get me out of sitting with people trying not to be awkward, but I couldn’t. So I went and yes, the first bit was unbearable, I did have a small beer as we would be there for a few hours but it was nothing to dampen my anxiety. I made small talk and sat, slowly though as I spoke to a couple I get on well with I felt myself relax and was able to come out of my shell.

The day wasn’t perfect and I’m in no way cured but I got through it and I showed myself that I can do it, which in the very least is a victory for me. I struggled, could barely talk to some people and did feel awkward. But less than I thought, and definitely better than not going. This way, I know I can do it and when the situation arises again, I’ll feel a bit better and each time, it will get better and better.

I’m always happy to chat and if you want to message privately, feel free to do so on the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional therefore if you’d like support, please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Doubt

OCD is known as the doubting disease as it causes you to doubt everything you think and feel, it permeates your every thought, do I really think this? What does this thought mean? Do I really feel like this? How do I know it’s real? You get used to a niggling feeling that ironically you do not doubt.

I thought of this today as I heard the words, ‘If you look for doubt, you will find it.’

Rarely do you hear words more true, it’s true that as someone with OCD, I, without thinking, seek out the doubt in my thoughts, seek out the proof  to the thought, look for evidence and try to rebut it. A thought enters my head and I doubt it, but doubt isn’t enough, I look for evidence, doubt this so I seek out more and more, endless on my quest to find the right piece of evidence that will finally hush the beast. But I don’t, I continue to doubt.

The next line I heard, ‘If you look for sunshine, you will find this too.’

Again, this is true, difficult sometimes, but true. Think of it this way, have you ever learnt a new word and then suddenly you hear it everywhere, it’s not that this word has only now started being used, it’s because you notice it, because it’s new and you’re looking for it. Seek things out and eventually, they’ll appear.

I try to listen to these quotes not as a hope that they will be a miracle cure, because it shows at least as these quotes are mainstream, doubt too, is mainstream and that everyone has them.

It relaxes me in the same sense that understand everyone has intrusive thoughts relaxes me. At least I’m not crazy!

Understanding that everyone has doubts and intrusive thoughts does not make this illness any easier to live with but it does make it certain that it could happen to any of us, and the research and work that goes into attempting to cure mental illnesses is vital. As is us talking and sharing, getting it all out in the open so that when someone reaches out, scared and confused, they’re welcomed by people who know what they’re going through and not met with the disdain that so many of us were met with.

If you’d like to chat, feel free to reach out on the ‘Contact’ tab, however, I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support, there are some resources on the ‘Support’ tab.

Suicide.

When will this stop?

Today I’ve read about an Olympian that at just 18 took her own life and the media has been a frenzy with the singer Demi Lovato whom his currently hospitalised for an overdose which is a suspected attempted suicide.

I’m fed up of it, how many more people have to die or attempt to kill themselves before this is taken seriously? Death is the only inevitable thing in life but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it when it happens too soon or take it ourselves, it doesn’t make it ok that the person chose to die.

It is also not ok that we brush it under the carpet, uncomfortable when someone mentions that they’ve thought about it. It’s not ok that we’re scared by it, it’s the only thing we are destined to do. I don’t believe in God or a grand plan, but I do believe that as people, we have the right to choose.

My argument here isn’t that people shouldn’t be able to choose to die. I am all for people going to assisted dying facilities where they can safely end their lives, they are often severely disabled and have spent years living that way, having made the decision with family and friends that dying is the right thing for them to do as they simply aren’t living.

My argument is that people should not be dying alone, in painful circumstances, afraid. My argument is that dying should not be a form of escape, a fear that there is no other choice. My argument is that suicide off the back of treatable mental illnesses should not be happening. What kind of society are we that we allow people to hide their true feelings, feel shame and embarrassment at their minds leading them to not seek help and spend days, months, years in torment leading them to think they have no options? What kind of people are we that every time this happens we vow that next time we’ll do better, there shouldn’t be a next time to try, there should be help for all that seek it.

It’s a fanciful ideal but one we’re slowly getting to, with the high-profile suicides and attempts, it shakes us, it can happen to them those we think have it all, but they’re too far from us. They exist in a separate reality to ours, sadly, only when it happens to someone close do we really act. Only when the loss is ours will we do anything. It shouldn’t have to get to that, so maybe if we start to talk before hand, normalise suicide, normalise mental illness maybe it will happen less and we can treat it.

Hello, my name is Serena, I have OCD and I too, have thought about ending it. I have recited the letters my family would read at my funeral. I have wondered how many sleeping tablets it would take, how deep the razor blade would need to go. But it was never serious for me, from an ego perspective I wanted to know who would turn up at my funeral, I wanted to know if I would be missed. This is not at all what it is like for someone really thinking of it, they don’t wonder these things, they don’t wonder at all. It’s a case of either knowing people wouldn’t miss you, would be better off without you or wouldn’t care. It’s knowing that it’s the only way to end the way you feel, or, a way to feel something. It’s hitting a dead end.

If you would like to chat, feel free to reach out on the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you like this support, please see some resources on the ‘Support’ tab.

I don’t have to be beautiful like you…

It’s something I wrote a few months ago on an old blog but wanted to bring the words here, as think they’re becoming increasingly important in the world of filtered selfies and zealous over-sharing of only the good things in life.

“I’m beautiful like me.’

Words I read this morning.

I don’t plan what I’m going to write on these blogs, I wanted to write today but didn’t know what to write about. I like to wait until something inspires me or something happens. Something inspired me today. I was scrolling through Facebook, and there was the usual, cats, dogs, cakes, gin, someone went on holiday, someone got engaged, etc etc etc. Then a video of a larger set woman posing in a bikini in a changing room with her daughter in the corner also trying on a top when she asked her mother if she agreed that she looked beautiful. The video started explaining their trip to the shop that day, how the girl had been polite, kind and complimentary to everyone she met. Why? She was imitating her mother, her mum was kind, polite and complimentary to those she met, friends and strangers, the young girl had watched this and learnt that this was the way to treat people.

Her mum had also told her every day that she was beautiful, so the girl thought nothing else. She was beautiful. The mum was going to comment on her own appearance, say she felt fat and ugly, but bit her tongue, if the child would pick up on the positive behaviour she would almost certainly pick up on the negative behaviour. So she said she was beautiful, she felt fat, but said she was beautiful. She didn’t want her daughter thinking anything else, she was beautiful. The mother realised how important what she said and how she acted was on other people.

If she was mean, rude and offensive, her daughter would copy this, if she felt bad about herself and consistently said negative things about herself, her daughter would copy this. Then it’s only a case of falling down a rabbit warren of the thoughts becoming your own reality. True or not. The mother then realised she was beautiful, not in someone else’s definition, but for her own definition. She was kind, polite and had raised a child to be this also, she has confidence, self-esteem and empathy, she is beautiful.

I, naturally, related this to me. I have low self-esteem, my brain has a split personality of incredibly arrogant and pitifully low self-opinion. I want to be thinner, I won’t, my bones won’t allow it. I want to be kinder, more generous, more careful, thoughtful, less shallow and worried about what people think. I want to be beautiful like you, not beautiful like me. But I think the words have such power, 7 billion people in this world and only one Serena Moden. Actually is, I’ve checked, but even if there were more, I’m Serena 1.0, the only one, the one with OCD and from Ely, the one with a crazy family and a penchant for being witty, the one that likes gin and cries when someone else cries. I’m the only one and that in itself is beautiful. I will soon be beautiful like me, not beautiful like you.

You do you, you’re smashing it and I’ll do me.”

If you’s like to chat, feel free to reach out on the ‘Contact’ tab however I am not a mental health professional and if you’d like to speak to a professional, please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Request

Morning all, how are we? Sleeping well? No, because it’s so hot here in the UK, bored of the consistent sweating now thanks.

So, other than all that, I’m working with my local mental health organisation Talking FreEly and we have a blog, which we try and feature guest bloggers each week, now if any of you reading this would like to write something to feature then feel free to drop me a line and I can sort this out for you. We will of course promote your blog in the piece also so you’re getting something out of it!

Now for a personal request, does anyone follow any groups, individuals or hashtags on Twitter and Instagram that they would recommend, looking to get involved in more conversations and help raise awareness as much as possible so if people have any then do let me know!

Finally, feel free to request the same of me, happy to write introduction to OCD pieces, or OCD coupled with anxiety and depression if you need anything for your local causes!

 

What If?

What if? What if? What if?

Possibly my most used phrase, that and how do you know?

Why do I say it? It’s the phrase that enters my head if I’m trying to disprove a thought, my brain goes ‘yea, but what if you are? What if we didn’t check? What if we didn’t avoid that child? What if we are alone?’

I’ll explain, I’ve previously mentioned that OCD is centred around intrusive thoughts, thoughts of harm and danger to ourselves and others. These thoughts may be one in a billion chance, but what if, we were that one? It would be careless to not do something about it right?

For example, taking myself here, I have never, ever, knowingly and purposefully harmed a child, never, nor an adult. It’s just not in my current nature. However, I also know I have done things in my past that I knew at the time were wrong, I also know I have changed since I was a child, a teen and a young adult. Now, who is to say, with 100% certainty that I would never, ever knowingly and purposefully harm a child in the future? You can’t. You simply can’t, no one knows what the future holds and whilst in my current state I would never do anything, there could be a million things that could happen that would lead me to be the person that could.

I’m not a special case, I’m not unusual in this. All of you, every single one of you, cannot say that statement in all honesty, difference between me and you, you have learnt to accept that you live in the grey, you cannot predict the future and that you can live life with this haze of uncertainty, you’ve probably not even thought about it. Oh how I envy you.

I cannot, or could not, I should say, I’m better at it now, live in the grey. I know with every fibre of my being I do not want to be the kind of person who would harm a child. I could ask every person that knows me and they would agree I am not currently, nor could they reasonably predict that I would not become that kind of person.

But what if I do? What if I am that person and I’m just waiting for a trigger exactly the same as how OCD was triggered? What if OCD is just an excuse I’m using to make people think I’m really a safe person so they don’t get suspicious? What if I stop trying to prove these thoughts wrong, does that mean they’re true? What if they are? What if everyone was wrong? And the mind circles, until you come to the exhausted conclusion, that you should continue to act as though the thought is true and make certain it doesn’t come true.

I’m not a mental health professional, if you would like this support, please see the ‘Support’ tab, or if you’d like a chat, feel free to leave a comment or reach out via the ‘Contact’ tab.